Newsletter 2016 1231
First we want to thank each of you for your support of our farm and your encouraging words this year. We continue to reinvest in our farm’s future. Our website has attracted many new customers and sales via our online ordering have increased each month. Folks really appreciate our buying club delivery option.
While we are committed to providing our customers great tasting, healthy, and nutritious beef, pork, and chicken there is a looming risk to our business model. That risk is the lack of private label slaughter facilities. The number of facilities has drastically declined in the past 25 years – the few that are left – the owners are mid-50’s and older. They have no succession plans for children, etc. to take over the business and would not encourage others to enter this business. REASON: Federal & State AG Regulations and Policies.
USDA policies at both the federal and state level are heavily biased in favor of large corporations. The best example I can think of is found in Oktibbeha County (Starkville, MS). Once this county had >800 small farm dairies. Today there is only one dairy – a taxpayer funded operation at MS State Univ. Take a close look at our rural communities and you will see they have been devastated by large corporations and mega farms that have sucked the live out of them. The effect is similar as when Wal-Mart comes into a small town. When those 800 farm dairies closed then all the supporting small business also closed. What’s left is boarded up buildings.
As late as 1940 there were >30 million people engaged in farming. Today there is less than 4 million. The number of farms is <50% while farm acres has mostly plateaued near 10 million since the 1960’s.
The percentage of the retail value of all foods that is paid to farmers has declined for 57 years! Today the percentage is about half as much as it was in the early 1950’s. Source: Economic Research Service
So, what is my point? Why do I share this with you? I have 3-request:
1) Resolve to support small LOCAL farms as close to your home as possible AND remember, nothing is more effective than your recommendation of our farm to your family & friends
2) Be informed. Talk to small farmers.
3) Engage your federal and state representatives (including Ag Commissioner) – let them know how their regulations & policies are destroying small farms and communities. Specifically, we need relief in small slaughter facilities.
Last week the Impact in Hattiesburg published the following. Please read and consider purchasing the book mentioned. It will help inform you about the risk to your food sources.
The demise of the American farmer and why you should care by David Barron as published in the Impact December 21st, 2016
Sitting in our comfortable living rooms watching our favorite television programs while mom (or dad) is cooking up some tasty dish to serve for dinner, the plight of the American farmer might be the furthest thing from our minds. While most Americans go about their daily lives, expecting from one hour to the next a normalcy that we have all become acclimated to, the lives of the men and women out on the farms are anything but normal, and from hour to hour theirs is a fight for survival.
Most farmers live at the whim and will of a global cartel of packers, distributors, and buyers that keep them economically stained and politically muted. In years gone by the farmer was the backbone of this nation. The public has traditionally viewed farmers as those people who, through their hard work and attention to quality, have provided this nation with safe, healthy and abundant food. But since Ronald Reagan, all that has changed.
In Reagan’s first term he undertook a reshuffling of the deck, so to speak, of how this nation gets the commodities it needs for all of us to put food on our tables. Reagan began to ‘water down’ anti-trust laws that were on the books to help American farmers and suppliers compete with other countries that were shipping its products into the U.S. at cheaper prices than the American farmer could produce and market them.
The trend that Reagan started back in 1984 has continued to this day through every administration and has escalated to the point that the American farmer is being systematically and economically cut out of the framework of food production in the United States. Even as recently as 2007, an American farmer could expect up to a 53 percent return on goods and commodities he produced and marketed to the country; today that return is less than 30 percent. Giant multi-national conglomerates now decide how much farmers can make and how much they can produce.
In his book, “The Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business,” Christopher Leonard outlines exactly how big corporations have taken control of food production and distribution in the United States.
“There are four companies that make and distribute 85 percent of beef in the United States,” he says. “This amount of control over food production and distribution gives big corporations the marketing power to suppress the prices it pays to suppliers (farmers and ranchers) while at the same time raising the prices to consumers.”
Leonard’s book focused mostly on Tyson Foods, an Arkansas based company. Leonard said the large conglomerate now controls a substantial share of the U.S and world markets with brands such as Jimmy Dean Sausage, Hillshire Farms, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wrights, and State Fair, but says the model is the same for each of the three other companies that control production, packing, and supply of most of the nation’s food supply.
These four companies – Tyson Foods in Arkansas, USA; JBS, a Brazilian Based company located in Sau Paulo, Brazil; Cargill Foods in Wayzata, Minnesota; Smithfield Foods, originally based in Virginia but bought out by Shuanghui International Holdings Inc. of China in 2013 – along with major corporations that produce beef in both Canada and Mexico, successfully lobbied Congress in 2013 for the repeal of the ‘country of origin labeling’ law that was passed 2013. Attorneys for the giant food conglomerates argued that the COOL law, as it was called, violated foreign entities fair trade rights with the USA because it unfairly caused US consumers to be more selective in its choice of what products, U.S. produced or foreign produced, consumers would purchase. Tyson and Cargill lobbied on behalf of its international markets due to a threatened trade tariff other countries would place on foods exported from the US. The foreign-based companies just wanted to squash consumer information to increase their market shares here in the U.S.
In response to the threats from foreign suppliers Congress, in June of 2015, voted to repeal the law, saying, “It was an absolute failure and needed to be done away with.” Since the repeal of the COOL law, American beef production has precipitously declined, and so has profits for farmers and meat growers in the United States. In 2012, one year before the passage of COOL, cows slaughtered in the U.S. was about 32.9 million head. During the two years of COOL’s existence, U.S. cows slaughtered remained above 30 million head a year, but in 2015 after the repeal of COOL, U.S. slaughtering fell below 30 million, down to 28.7 million in 2015. This year it is estimated that the numbers will fall far less than 2015 numbers because in 2014, the year new calves would enter the production arena, the smallest number of calves were born in the U.S. since 1941. This is according to statistics from USDA .gov. At the same time US production has dropped, foreign imports have boomed.
Consider the following: In 2012 the U.S. market produced 26 billion pounds of beef. In 2015 the year of the repeal of COOL, U.S. beef production dropped to 23.7 billion pounds. During this time, cattle imports from Canada alone rose from 2.2 billion pounds in 2012 to 3.37 billion pounds in 2015.*
It is not difficult to see how the influx of foreign beef from both Canada and Mexico, of which there are no statistics on the USDA website, have cut into production here in the United States. That decline in production here at home results in U.S. producers being forced into selling its product to the large companies at reduced prices. From 2015 to 2016, cattle prices for the US farmer/producer have been cut by 50 percent. Mike Callicrate, a corporate director of Organization for Competitive Markets, said in a recent meeting with cattle producers here in Mississippi that “In October of 2014 a bull with a retail value of $3,300 netted back to the farmer 58.2 percent of profit. Now, as of September 2016, that same $3,300 bull nets 38.8 percent profit back to the farmer,” Callicrate said. “That is a 20 percent loss in less than two years,” he said.
Mike Weaver, OCM president, and president of Contract Poultry Growers Association of Virginia, puts the practice another way.
“The largest firms of beef, pork, and poultry are foreign owned and they are squeezing out the little guy. Today retail growers get about 21 percent from sale of meat in the US, while the packers get 17 percent. The farmer or rancher now gets 0.54 percent. The rest goes into the pockets of the large firms,” he said. “There is an economic term that describes this kind of activity on the part of the large firms controlling the supply of meat, it is called stealing!” he retorted.
But for you and me sitting at home in our lounge chair wondering what the wife is going to cook for supper, all these figures and statistics likely have little meaning to us. That is understandable, but what should have significant meaning to you me are three things:
1) The prices you are paying for meat products in the United States have steadily risen since 2006 and show no signs of slowing down. In 2012 the average price for a pound of beef in the US was $4.99 a pound. In 2015 that price had risen to $6.29 a pound.
2) The quality of meat products you are purchasing in the local grocer is no longer a guarantee. With foreign companies’ use of antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones, DDT and other hazardous pesticides, and chemically altered fertilizers and additives all with little or no governmental oversight (about one percent of imported products are actually being inspected), it is a roll of the dice for the American consumer as to the quality of product on the dining table every night.
3) And finally, with not labeling of country of origin, there is no paper trail to trace if something happens to your little ones because of E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter microbes that are increasingly on the rise in the U.S. This is a direct result of relaxation of quality and cleanliness control standard from foreign suppliers the likes of which would never be tolerated from most US based companies.
The American farmer is being eliminated from the fabric of the American culture, and with the ultimate elimination of this vital sector of our economy and society will come the elimination of this country’s ability to self-sustain itself in the event of a calamitous clash with other nations that may not have America’s interest at heart. The food industry is becoming a carbon copy of our energy industry: too much reliance on foreign entities and governments without the ability to produce here at home what our country needs to sustain itself.
So, what does the increasing disappearance of US farmers mean to you? It means a whole heck of a lot if you care about how and what you feed your family. It may be fathomable to think it is okay for some foreign regime to fill up the gas tank on your car, but do you, as Americans, really trust a group of foreign globalists to fill up the empty stomachs of your kids? That is where we, as a nation, are headed. Our local and national farming industry is headed to oblivion. So one must ask, can our nation, which has been built on the back-breaking efforts of our farmers, be far behind?
*Statistics from US department of Agriculture Economic Research Service; Statistic and Information.